Human social groups are amazing things. The way complete strangers can come together because of some need (work, religion, social cause, hate of zombies) and interact with each other is quite extraordinary considering the personal barriers we tend to put up around ourselves.
Sometimes though, I do wish we’d hold onto our barriers a little longer. There is a stark difference between conversing with purpose, and conversing to fill up the empty space between two people. Usually, office banter is of the second species. What do they talk about?
Well, fortunately for you, I have conducted a highly scientific and precise experiment revolving around this phenomena, by means of sitting around and eavesedropping on everyone’s conversations (hey, science isn’t always pretty, we must push the boundaries to find the truth!).
And so, my results, in no particular order:
Apparently, humans love food so much, even when they’re not eating they’ll talk about it. Talk about what one’s going to eat for lunch, what one actually ate for lunch, where one got his/her lunch, and how one’s lunches just aren’t cooperating with one’s dietary tract. Amidst all this food-talk, humans are still capable of ingesting extraordinary amounts of fast food. Fascinating.
It appears that when humans are not working, they all deviate to one single past time: watching television. For people who theoretically have only a few hours of free time once they get home from sitting in front of a computer screen all day, a large percentage of that time seems to be taken up by sitting in front of an even bigger screen. How else would they constantly be up to date on the latest American Idol, So You Think You Can Dance, Food Network shows, and hilarious GEICO commercials? Some subjects even peruse Youtube for
the latest week old videos sent by their tech-savvy children. How they have time to eat their precious meals or intiate personal hygiene rituals is beyond the scope of my understanding, and will need to be researched further.
Even after filling up after-work hours with eating and TV, the subjects are still capable of conducting intra-familial rituals throughout the week and dutifully report back to the office. One can often hear the life story of a child through the eyes of their mother/uncle/grandparent, who evidently lacks any need to minimize how annoying/adorable/stupid/smart said child is, with various examples to support their thesis. With my methodical researching style and eavesdropping abilities, I can say with 95% confidence that, yes, your granddaughter’s candy eating habits will indeed result in type 2 diabetes, and your son is probably on some sort of recreational drug.
This appears to be not so much a conversation filler, but a sub-group I have deemed “conversation-starters”. Office subjects (usually, but not exclusive to, women) will initiate conversational protocol by expressing heightened excitement at the cuteness factor of one’s blouse, or the fashion sense of a new pair of shoes. At this point, the paired subject usually responds with tales of hunting down sales, matching outfit ideas, and lamentations of the shirt lost that looked almost like this one but that they loved so so so much better. Speaking of which:
The glue that holds mankind together, the universal conversation topic and glorious social bonding staple that predates written history: complaining. Whether it’s complaining about the weather, aching body, stupid landlords, broken down cars, poor customer service, or basically anything that proves just how unfair life is, it’s all up for grabs. No conversation gets as passionate, no individual gets as talkative, than the ones that include some sort of gripe about life. Not just life in general, but their life. Why their life sucks, why something is wrong in their life, why something negative is undeserved in their life. It continues to amaze me just how much human beings can talk about only themselves – while in a conversation with other people, who are probably talking about themselves as well.
Granted, these results are not as conclusive as I would like and requires a bit more research, but generally I do believe these topics take up about 98% of the time spent talking in the work environment. The question of why is a whole different matter all together, and will be analyzed in a future report.
Stay classy, office folk. Science thanks you for being such willing subjects.